Agony Shorthand

Saturday, October 25, 2003

It’s hard to sit back and be objective when confronted with crazed punk rock music played by late 70s Cleveland icons THE PAGANS – their early 45s are some of the most blazing, raw and alive rock songs of all time, particularly “Street Where Nobody Lives”, “What’s This Shit Called Love” and “Dead End America”. They’ve long been filed as a “top ten band of all time, if and when someone asks me for my list”. When I fell for them in the mid 80s (when the “Buried Alive” compilation came out) I fell hard, and that included the purchase of anything and everything that had their name on it (even mediocre late 80s reunion records). Swept up in all this punk rock buying frenzy was 1982’s “The Pink Album”, the band’s only official and true LP when they were together, albeit in a slightly rejiggered lineup removed from their late 70s masterworks. Treehouse Records put this LP out in 1987, and a few years ago Crypt, now keepers of the PAGANS vault, threw “The Pink Album” on a CD with 14 other odds n’ sods. It is this version I wish to report on.

It’s probably worth getting out there that “The Pink Album” is word-definingly mediocre. This was a record cobbled together by a bored Mike Hudson & his hired hands (some of whom were original Pagans, others not), taken from a live radio broadcast, basement recordings and a couple of studio numbers. In a couple of instances, it is shit-hot wild and cranked up (“Give Til It Hurts”, “Cleveland Confidential” – also known as “Real World”); in others, it is limp and uninspired filler not worthy of the Pagans’ moniker. But truth be told, these guys weren’t completely about the KBD-style ungawa punk rock 45 thing their whole career. They were avid rock and roll fans, with testimonials (boring as they are) being covers of Alice Cooper's “Eighteen”, The Surfaris, Velvet Underground and even the ubiquitous “Fever”. Not a bad thing in and on itself, but it smacks of a Tuesday night Cleveland bar band, not the midwest’s smokingest punk band of all time. This is a record that truly exemplifies the “for completists only” tag – even the extra tracks are much hotter on Crypt’s other CD “Shit Street” and the amazing (and out of print) “Everybody Hates You” CD collection.